The Anglican Church of Canada “punches above its weight” when it comes to refugee work, William Postma, recently appointed director of The Primate's World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF), tells General Synod. Photo: Art Babych
Richmond Hill, Ont.
Since last September, when the world first saw the body of the little Syrian refugee, Alan Kurdi, washed up on a shore in Turkey, Anglicans in 14 dioceses across Canada have sponsored and resettled 1,750 refugees, members of General Synod heard Tuesday, July 12.
In all, $20 million was raised to support refugee resettlement and sponsorship, William Postma, recently appointed director of The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) said in a presentation to synod, in its last day of meetings.
It’s evidence, Postma said, of how the Anglican Church of Canada “punches above its weight” when it comes to refugee work.
“This deserves more than an acknowledgment, but a celebration,” he said.
It was one of many of PWRDF’s accomplishments that had impressed him since assuming his role June 13, Postma said.
“The results of some of our programs are truly astounding,” he said. For example, in three African countries—Burundi, Mozambique and Tanzania—where they run vaccination programs, PWRDF partners have vaccinated 410,000 children under the age of five in three years, he said—an especially high number considering the programs are run in far-flung rural areas, Postma added. In Mozambique, child mortality rates during the same three years decreased from 26% to 5%.
In Canada, PWRDF raised $165,000 in donations for Fort McMurray wildfire relief, he said. The fund has also been placing more importance on support for Indigenous communities, he said—“support that’s respectful, support that’s honourable, support that’s responsive to needs on the ground.”
Among its recent projects for Canadian Indigenous people, he said, is a two-year immersion course in the Mohawk language, in the Mohawk community of Kahnawake, near Montreal.
One thing that’s surprised him since starting at PWRDF, he said, is the enormous network of volunteers it has to draw on—1,600 according to a recent count.
“I have to say, having been with a lot of other organizations, that is a really enviable number,” he said.
General Synod also heard from Zaida Bastos, director of PWRDF’s development partnership program, about its maternal, newborn and child health program. Since the year 2000, she said, there has been a decrease of more than 50% in preventable child death worldwide. However, rates of maternal and child death in sub-Saharan Africa remain very high, Bastos said.
PWRDF’s maternal, newborn and child health program operates, through local community health workers, in 524 villages in five African countries, she said. These community health workers constantly accompany pregnant and new mothers and their children, ensuring they get the medical attention they need to survive and be healthy.
In addition to its actual accomplishments, Postma said he also really liked that PWRDF’s vision is about more than just providing physical aid.
“I’m really excited that PWRDF has that bedrock commitment to rights, human rights...it’s about each and every one of us made in the image of God,” he said.
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Tali Folkins has worked as a staff reporter for the Law Times and the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal. His writing has appeared in The Globe and Mail and The United Church Observer.
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